Sreevidya Rajan says makers of Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl have twisted the facts; says she was the first lady pilot to fly in Kargil

After a complaint from the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the alleged negative portrayal of the force in the recently released film Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, now Sreevidya Rajan, an IAF Officer has objected to the film. Sreevidya Rajan was posted along with Gunjana Saxena. The IAF in its complaint to the censor board had also pointed out that Sreevidya was not shown in the film. Now, Sreevidya has addressed the issue through a Facebook post.

“As the only other lady officer posted at Udhampur along with Gunjan Saxena and having gone through the ups and downs of the journey, now I would like to put forward my views. We are course mates and had undergone our training together in AFA and HTS. Both of us were posted to Udhampur in 1996 but in the movie, it was shown that she was the only lady pilot posted at the unit,” she started the post.

She spoke about the way she and Gunjan Saxena were treated in what was a male dominated sector. “Since the two of us were the first lady pilots to be posted to that helicopter unit, we were skeptical about our acceptance in the male-dominated niche area of flying. We were received with the usual preconceived notions and prejudices from a few colleagues. However, there were enough officers to support us. We were under strict scrutiny and certain mistakes of ours were met with corrective actions which may have been overlooked had it been done by our male counterparts. We had to work harder than our counterparts to prove ourselves to be at par with them.”

However, as opposed to the film, where Gunjan Saxena played by Janhvi Kapoor who had support from only one superior officer, Sreevidya said that a majority of officers accepted and treated them well. “Some were not happy to share the professional space with us but the majority accepted and treated us as fellow officers working towards a common goal. Our flying began within a few days of our arrival and was never interrupted or cancelled for petty reasons as wrongly portrayed in the movie. The squadron commander was a thorough professional. He was a very strict and tough officer who took us to task whenever there was a mistake from our side, be it male or female,” she wrote.

She also spoke about the scene in the film where a senior officer asks Gunjan Saxena to arm wrestle another fellow male colleague to prove her physical strength. “We never faced any humiliating physical strength demonstrations as shown in the movie. We were never ill-treated or humiliated by our fellow officers. As shown in the movie, there were no separate toilet facilities and changing rooms for ladies in the unit. After initial difficulties, we shared the limited resources with our fellow officers and they always accommodated and helped us whenever it was needed,” she added.

Sreevidya also pointed out that Gunjan Saxena was not the only lady pilot to fly in the Kargil operations. “We were posted together to Udhampur and when the Kargil conflict started, I was the first woman pilot to be sent along with the male counterparts in the first detachment of our unit which deployed at Srinagar. I flew missions in the conflict area even before Gunjan's arrival at Srinagar. After a few days of operation, Gunjan Saxena came to Srinagar with the next set of crew. The heroic acts of the protagonist portrayed in the climax never actually happened and may have been shown as part of cinematic licence,” she said.

Sreevidya said that the filmmaker must have twisted the facts given by Gunjan for the sake of publicity. “She had many achievements during her career which should have been portrayed to inspire the younger generation instead of showing her as a weak and oppressed victim in certain scenes. As the pioneers of women pilots, we were treated with utmost respect and it was our responsibility to live up to the expectations and pave way for future generations. The movie is sending out a wrong message about the lady officers of IAF, there by demeaning the prestigious organisation of our country.”

“I only wish that since it is a Biopic, Gunjan should have made sure to show the facts and portray IAF in a positive light before giving her approval to air the movie. Though I was the first lady pilot to fly in Kargil, I never claimed it in any forum before this due to my strong belief in gender equality. In Kargil operations, male pilots had flown extensively and faced more hardships than us. But they never got or sought any publicity. We probably were given this fame because of our gender which I do not support. In defence services, there is no disparity between male or female. We are all officers in uniform,” concluded Sreevidya.

ALSO READ: Gunjan Saxena says she had the support of fellow officers, supervisors and commanding officers at IAF during initial days 

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